Keeping one jump ahead of the software market seems to come naturally to author of Jet Set Willy, Matthew Smith. Sue Denham checks out his follow-up to Manic Miner, where Miner Willy hits the big time.
Every now and then, there comes a program that somehow prevents reviews
from being written in a hurry - simply
because tapping typewriter keys is cold
comfort after you've negotiated the
perilous journey up The Megatrunk, or
collected the goodies from The Forgotten Abbey, or entered The Chapel and
lived, or ... |
Star of the Speccy screen, Matthew Smith, has finally delivered his follow-up to Manic Miner, and it's every bit as good and refreshing as the original. The story line is as weak as ever - some nonsense about Willy having thrown a party and the guests having left lots of champagne glasses strewn about his mansion (altered slightly in the production version). The aim is for him to collect all of these, because his housekeeper won't let him into the bedroom until he has. Weak it may be, still 'it's the game itself wot matters'.
The game is colourful, fast and ingenious. The controls are simple; you can move left or right and you can jump effortlessly into the air. And that's all there is to it - except, of course, that this is where all your problems begin!
At the bottom of the screen, there's an indication of time. You begin your quest at seven in the morning (it must have been one heck of a party!) and the idea is to get into your bedroom by the hour of midnight. No, that doesn't mean you'll be sitting at the keyboard for 17 hours (although that wouldn't surprise me) for Matthew has thoughtfully shortened each minute to around 40 seconds. But anyway, this is unlikely to bother users for quite a time ... in the many weeks this game has taken to review, the clock has still never made it to eight in the morning!
When you begin playing you start with eight lives, which at first seems a bit excessive (ho ho) - until you venture past The Bathroom. It's worthwhile just having a wander around to get a feel for the way Miner Willy handles; for example, you can get Willy to hang precariously to a surface by what looks like a single pixel before making that important leap - and in some cases that's exactly what you'll have to do.
about malevolent space invaders and
greedy Pac-persons, here the baddies
are Swiss Army knives, razor blades,
mini-chefs, grotesque faces, wobbling
jellies, rolling eggs, ballet-dancing gerbils, a Monty Python foot, and ... need
I go on? |
That's not all you have to watch out for. The program has a nasty habit of thrusting you on-screen in a room you've just lost a life in - leaving you powerless to prevent all the remaining lives being eaten up in the same way. Try making some of the leaps across The Orangery, for instance. Should you miss your footing you're likely to end up falling down into The Swimming Pool and dying. The rest of your lives will then automatically be swallowed up in the same way, leaving you impotent with rage and uselessly hitting every key in sight, in a vain attempt to prevent the inevitable.
Another strange quirk is the way in which the rooms have been laid out. The top floor seems to have more rooms than the floor below, and the basement has even fewer. For instance, if you go from The Wine Cellar into the next room, you'll end up in The Forgotten Abbey - which according to my calculations is right over the other side of the mansion!
You can also reach some strange places by getting to the highest point of some rooms and jumping up. The first experience of this came after a timely leap from Rescue Esmerelda, which sent poor Willy headlong into the floor of Ballroom East. Also, if you try jumping off most of the other rooms on the top floor, Willy ends up in The Off Licence. Whether this just shows Matthew Smith's alcoholic sense of humour, I'll probably never know, but after a few hours of Jet Set Willy, it turns out not to be a bad suggestion at all.
Unlike Andrew Pennell (the little cheat!), the approach in the YS office
was simply one of striking out with eight
meagre lives, in an attempt to find all the
rooms. Having located around 45 of
them, we seemed to come across a bug:
each time we walked into certain rooms,
Willy lost all his lives. It was time for a
frantic phone call to Software Projects'
Alan Morton. "Ahah", said Alan, "you
didn't by any chance visit The Attic did
you?" Sure 'nuff, we had - and very
proud we were at the time. "Well, that's
just a little something we put in to make
it a bit more difficult", came the heavily
understated reply. (The feeling our end
is that it's a bug being turned into an
asset - but who knows, we could be
Indeed, it does make the game "a bit more difficult" - in fact, nigh on impossible to be precise. Once you visit The Attic, the four guardians from The Chapel race off to guard the entrances to The Kitchen, West of Kitchen, Cuckoo's Nest and East Wall Base. So, for goodness sake remember to check these places out first (and all rooms beyond) before you set foot in The Attic - otherwise you'll only have to re-load the program from tape again and start over.
Another clever little trick you discover, even before getting to indulge in the delights of the game, is the way Matthew Smith has chosen to 'anti-pirate' his program. Using a colour chart (don't lose it or you'll be in a mess), you have to type in a code of four colours which you access from the chart via coordinates flashed on-screen. Obviously it's not fool-proof, but it should slow 'em down a bit.
Like Manic Miner, Jet Set Willy has a charm which sets it aside from virtually every other game on the market. On a personal level, I find Jet Set Willy to be infinitely superior to its predecessor - if only because a practised Jet Setter can travel throughout the entire gamut of rooms without dying; my
failure to complete the 12th level of
Manic Miner prevented me from ever
having to face the traumas of the following levels. |
Most of the objects cached in Jet Set Willy are attainable, but there are some which, even when working from carefully scaled maps of each room, seem impossible to retrieve without sacrificing a life. For instance, there's a tricky one to get on the third level of the Cold Store, a couple in the Wine Cellar, and the one in the Nightmare Room; this is made even more difficult by the sudden transformation of the Miner Willy character into an awkward flying pig shape. But if you really want to set yourself a task, try going after the goodies on the Conservatory Roof and see how well you make out.
If you enjoyed Manic Miner, then Willy is going to seem like the proverbial manna from heaven. Matthew Smith seems to have incorporated the best of his original creation, let none of his apparent fame spoil his wonderful sense of humour, and firmly set the blueprint for what I'm sure will be a very successful range of games - in much the same sort of way that Psion originally planned for Horace (remember him?).
In the meantime, it's good to see a program that'll rattle the software houses a bit and get them thinking along less traditional lines for their future releases. Full marks then to A&F Software for its Chuckie Egg which appeared in the wake of Manic Miner. Matthew Smith, meanwhile, is now happily ensconced in the Software Projects team (soon to be a director, we hear) - let's hope the association is both long and happy.
Okay, review over. Now, I think I'll just go and check out the Cuckoo's Nest - I almost managed to get the sparkler last time I tried ...
|JSW - A HACKER'S GUIDE|
If you always type MERGE "" whenever you load a game for the first time, then you can count yourself amongst that select programming group known as 'hackers'. Join Andrew Pennell on a journey through the machine code magic that comprises Jet Set Willy.
Although playing any game
of the quality of Jet Set Willy
is in itself great fun, the
more mischievous among us
get a double helping of kicks
by peering into sections of
the program - both to
examine its structure and to
alter certain attributes (in
other words, to cheat). |
The program itself can hardly be described as fully protected. Although the colour chart supplied will defeat most home pirates, the keener and more able ones will resort to any lengths to get bootlegs of the game. I know of one player who typed the whole chart into his word processor, and another who dutifully duplicated it all with felt tips. This latter soul gave me the biggest laugh - the fact is just a single POKE disables the entire coding mechanism!
The first thing I had to find was simply an 'infinite lives' POKE; eight lives are nowhere near sufficient. A delve into the code quickly unearthed the important DEC (HL), which was duly NOP'd out. This, however, is not the perfect solution. You'll probably have discovered that once the Attic has been visited, the program irrevocably alters itself - from there on in it's instant death if you enter four particular rooms. With infinite lives you're much more likely to find the Attic and, once you do, most of the rooms become blocked permanently. The (rather crude) solution I employ is simply to power down and re-load Willy from Microdrive cartridge, although cassette users could have a problem here.
Incidentally, my current version of JSW (on Microdrive, of course) has a menu on it complete with options to choose the number of lives, which screen to start on and the numbers of objects within the game. The code itself has also been modified so that by pressing a certain key, the screen contents can be saved on cassette as a SCREEN$ file and, using the routines described in my article Print Routines in this issue, dumped onto my Epson printer.
Anyway, - getting back to the Attic - I spent quite some time trying to find the piece of code that 'switched-in' this clever, if frustrating, effect; alas, to no avail. But the time wasn't wasted because during my investigations I turned up a number of other useful things including a way to find out the final solution. (By the way, if anyone out there has sorted out the POKE to disable the catastrophic 'Attic Attack'
feature, please tell us here at
The first thing that amazed me about JSW was the fact that there's only about 4K of machine code in the whole program! There's some 22K of data for the rooms, sprites and sound, while the remaining 12K or so is all used as 'workspace' by the other routines. In fact, much of the code is concerned with scanning the keyboard and all the possible types of joystick (except the Interface 2 type), not just to move Willy!
As you may have discovered on the original Manic Miner, you could get to any screen after typing in a nine-digit number (or on the Software Project's version, a 10-digit word) while playing the game. On Jet Set Willy it's a little bit harder. Here you have to be in a particular room at a particular height when you type out the 10 letters. But the problem is, having done this, you enter a room not at a 'safe' place, but at your current position - so extreme care must be taken when changing rooms using this method. You'll find you can only access 39 rooms like this anyway (answers on a postcard please for how to access the other 21).
The first person to finish JSW received a prize of Champagne and glasses from Software Projects, but to prove your bona fides you had first to tell the company how many hidden objects there were and what happened when you then tried to go to bed. My first attempt at winning the splendid prize involved a couple of POKEs to remove the wall above Maria in the Master Bedroom (trying to get rid of Maria herself proved futile!). The POKEs worked and I could jump over her and into the bedroom proper. Touching the bed had no effect, while touching the pillow proved fatal - this was obviously not the way to cheat. A bit more time misspent listing out the code revealed both answers - and a single POKE allows anyone to see the final graphic effect, having picked up just one object! I 'm sure you'll be happy to know that I came nowhere near the first to come up with the final answer though - no champers for me ...
Anyway, I next built up a complete map of the house by sticking together screen dumps of each room - in a similar fashion to the illustration included with this article. However, I was still unable to see all of the objects. Finally, after much searching I stumbled upon a table that held the locations of each object - and found a few surprises. Some of
them count as two, and
others are 'invisible'; indeed,
there's one somewhere on
the First Landing which still
eludes me. |
Along with the program and all its data are some very weird bytes indeed. For instance, the data for a further screen which contains very little - and, in fact, it's possible to reach it without cheating - is called ']' and just appears to have been forgotten about. For reference, it lies above the Conservatory Roof. There are also some strange- looking instructions towards the end of the program that appear to address a very complicated piece of hardware; exactly what, I don't know.
Incredibly, the data for each screen is stored in only 256 bytes - 128 for the room's appearance, 32 for its title and the remaining bytes for sprite information.
There are also quite a few oddities in the program, such as when Willy turns into what appears to be a flying pig. In fact, using a few more POKEs, being the pig character all the time can be a distinct advantage on some of the screens (sorry, not in the Emergency Generator - eat your heart out Pink Floyd!).
There are also some strange sections in some of the rooms that are either impossible to get to, or are seemingly useless. In particular, I would question the need for the gap at the bottom right of Nomen Lumi and the useless exit on the right of the Emergency Generator. As well as all this, what is the subtle pun behind 'Dr Jones Will Never Believe This'? What is 'Nomen Lumi'? And what the devil is a 'Quirkafleeg'? - and is the act of performing one illegal below a certain age? The regular staff at YS and myself would also be glad of any reader's help solving the mystery of the Banyan Tree - it's obvious you've got to get on top of the right-hand side of it to approach the goodies in the Conservatory Roof, but none of us can get there without fiddling it - and apparently Matthew Smith has only done it once himself, so what chance have we mere mortals?
Jet Set Willy is a great game to play, and from a programmer's point of view the ideas are structured magnificently. Even with my custom version I've only managed to get hold of around 40 objects! My excuse is that I've spent most of my time fiddling around inside the listing, what's yours? Hack on, my friends!